Los Angeles City Council members have proposed a plan to increase the minimum wage for city hotel workers to $15.37 an hour. The increase, which would almost double the current $8 minimum wage in California, comes in the wake of President Obama’s proposal for a $10.10 hourly federal minimum wage. Al Jazeera reports:The living wage proposal, applicable to about 11,000 workers employed by Los Angeles hotels with more than 100 rooms, would help to lift employees out of poverty and benefit the city economy, proposal supporters said on Tuesday when the proposal was introduced. … Three council members—Mike Bonin, Nury Martinez and Curren Price, representing the city's affluent Westside, the San Fernando Valley and downtown, respectively—introduced a motion on calling for a study of the issue. They pointed to city Economic Development Department findings that 43 percent of hotel workers in Los Angeles earn wages that leave them far below the federal poverty line, which has been a drag on the city's economic recovery. According to Economic Policy Institute research cited by living-wage backers, Los Angeles stands to gain more than $70 million in economic activity from raising the pay of hotel workers, giving them more disposable income to spend. "Study after study tells us that poverty, unemployment, and income disparity are plaguing Los Angeles," said Price, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, which will vote next week on the motion for a study.Opponents of the hike argue that it unfairly targets a single sector, and would result in hotels cutting back on employee hires. In general, however, economic theorists have disputed the claim that raising the minimum wage will lead to fewer jobs. And if the City Council members are successful, wages for LA hotel employees would be some of the highest nationwide.
Danayit Musse is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.